India needs specialist players for specialist formats

India needs specialist players for specialist formats

The Indian cricket team is in a transitional phase currently. Ever since the retirement of legends like Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, there has been a void in the team which will obviously take some time to fill. Over the past couple of years, India has seen some talented youngsters in the squad. However, the team’s performance has been extremely inconsistent. Though they did well in the World Cup, their performance in Tests and in other One-Day tournaments has not been up to the mark. Several theories have been around for the reasons of India’s inconsistency. Some say that the talent pool in Indian cricket is minimal. Others say that today’s cricketers are more interested in the IPL than playing for the nation. However, if one observes closely, it can be understood that the primary reason for India’s inconsistent performances is the fatigue factor. In today’s age, the Indian cricket team plays international cricket for almost the entire twelve months. India either keeps touring different countries for tournaments or hosting other teams. Then, there is the IPL which takes two months of their time every year. The players are likely to be fatigued and jaded. However, for some inexplicable reasons, the Indian selectors keep having the same team across all formats. Sure, the captain has changed in Tests and ODIs, but overall, the general face of all the squads remain the same. We see almost the same set of players representing the country in Tests, ODIs and T20s. Now this is wrong and counter-productive in so many ways.


Firstly, every player needs rest. The itinerary of the Indian team cannot and will not be changed. We have to learn to accept that India will keep playing cricket round the clock all year. In this atmosphere, it is essential that certain players be tried only in certain formats. That way, everyone will be fresh whenever their chance comes up. For example, a Rohit Sharma should be given rest after he has played a grueling One-Day tournament and some other player needs to be brought in his place when the Tests begin. If one keeps playing consistently, without a break, then anyone’s mind is likely to become jaded. Everyone needs a bit of time to relax and recharge. That needs to be implied in the Indian selection process as well. And lest one forget, that Mahendra Singh Dhoni retired from Tests after citing the fatigue factor of playing all the formats continuously. If only the selectors had not forced him to play Test matches continuously, who knows how much more Dhoni could have served India?


Some players are suited for one particular format only:
Just because one player is good, does not mean that he will be good across all formats. Some players are suited for a single format only. Cheteshwar Pujara will do well in tests, but you can’t force him to be a T20 hero. Similarly, the likes of Suresh Raina are tailor-made for the shorter format of the game. The longer form just does not suit him and try as you like, he will not excel in it. Hence, rather than being adamant, the Indian selectors need to be smart in their selection. They would do well to learn from top sides like South Africa and Australia. Both these teams have a different set of players for Tests and ODIs. Sure, there are some players who are retained in all the formats like a David Warner or an AB de Villiers. But these players are extraordinary and secondly, they do not play as much cricket as India does. Having the same set of players for all formats might have worked in the 90s where cricket wasn’t played that much. But things have changed significantly now. Hence, the need of the hour for Indian cricket is to choose their players according to the formats. Now lets us analyze some of the players who are perfectly made for certain formats in Indian cricket. Taking the future into consideration, these are the players who can be specialists in their formats in the long run for Indian cricket.


He is India’s best bet in Test matches, but unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, he is being ignored consistently of late. A few failures have seen him out of the 11 and Rohit Sharma being drafted in place of him. It was forgotten that Pujara has faced the likes of Steyn and Morkel in their own den and scored plenty of runs there. His batting style, technique and patient demeanor is perfect for Tests and he should always be a part of the Indian Test team.


Yes, he has scored two T20 hundreds, but Vijay is the perfect Test opener that India was looking for these many years. He has the ability to grind the opposition bowlers out and yet play some silken strokes to score big runs. There is no need to try him out in ODIs. Let’s just preserve him for the longest format.


For about seven years now, Ishant Sharma is being awaited as the next big fast bowler from India. But that has not been happening. Perhaps, the tendency to try him out in ODIs and T20s degenerates him. He is perfectly suited for Tests with his high-arm action and short-bowling tendency. He has gone for plenty of runs in ODIs, often even losing the game for the team. This also hampers his confidence in a major way. So, in order to preserve him as a good Test bowler, Ishant Sharma needs to be playing only in Test matches.


Yes, he has played only a handful of Tests as of now. But whatever little has been seen of him has been impressive. He scored fine hundreds against Australia in Australia and against Sri Lanka in their backyard. He looks very settled, composed and solid; rarely going for extravagant strokes. He can be India’s answer to the No. 3 dilemma and should be used for the long haul there.


The wicket-keeper batsman has shown some very impressive resilience as a batsman by batting with tail in the limited Test matches he has played. His keeping too seems quite good. He can thus be utilized as a specialized Test keeper.


He has got daddy hundreds in ODIs and can score on any wicket when in flow. Rohit Sharma, despite his inconsistency, is a super One-Day player. He has a flair for batting and can take the game away from the opposition. Forcing him in Tests has led to no results. It would be hence prudent to only utilize him as a specialist shorter-format player.


He is as perfect a Oneday/ T20 player you will ever get. When he comes during the middle-overs, he can rotate the strike at will and hit the ball out of the park when the pressure mounts. However, this strategy does not work in Tests and hence he has been found wanting there. Forcing him in that format will lead to his disintegration.


He has been quite successful for India as an opener in ODIs. Although he has done decently in Tests too, but one can easily gauge that he struggles in that format. Playing in Tests does not come naturally to this stylish left-hander. He may succeed in sub-continental conditions but will be found wanting in the seaming and swinging tracks overseas. In ODIs he is free and scores without any fear. Thus, he should be retained in this format only.


There are some players in the Indian team who are suited for both the formats. Players like Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravi Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami, among a few others, are too good a players to be utilized in only one form. Their services can be taken in both the formats. However, this should be done with caution. To ensure their longevity, they need to be given breaks from time to time. Otherwise, they may break down; especially bowlers like Kumar and Shami. The Indian team management hence needs to be wise in their approach.

As for T20s, India isn’t playing the format internationally as much, so the question of player burn out is minimal here. However, T20 too has its uses. The likes of Robin Uthappa, Stuart Binny, Kedar Jadhav, Naman Ojha, and other players, can be given a run here instead of the regulars. This will have two benefits. Firstly, the regulars will get a break and the selectors can get to see if any of the selected players are good enough. Good performances in T20s can lead them to be drafted in the ODI squad as well. This will hence lead to a healthy bench strength along with ensuring well-rested players.


The Indian team, as mentioned earlier, is going through a transitional phase. In this year itself, India is to play a very important One-Day, T-20 and Test series against South Africa at home. That tour might be a very good option to try out this theory of specialist players for specialist formats. India is not known to try out new and innovative ideas. However, the need of the hour is that India utilizes its players for the greater good of Indian cricket overall. Sticking to a redundant idea will lead them nowhere. If they keep playing the same set of players across all formats it will do no good. Ultimately, the life span of players will be reduced along with their performances. Some prudent thinking here might do a world of good for Indian cricket. If India really wishes to be the best team in the world in all the formats, then this strategy has to be emulated for its long-term success.

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